Covid-19 has opened up new growth areas, fresh opportunities for digitalisation: Panel

(From left) ST associate editor Vikram Khanna, Sea Group COO Gang Ye, CEO Kusumo Martanto, CEO George Hendrata and Temasek technology and consumer deputy head Fock Wai Hoong at a panel discussion during the Indonesia-Singapore Business Forum on June 14, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Covid-19 has presented companies around the world with new areas for growth, despite the challenges and disruptions it threw up over the past two years.

This point was made by business leaders at a panel discussion on Tuesday (June 14) on digital transformation for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with some highlighting the fresh opportunities firms had to digitalise during the pandemic.

The discussion, moderated by The Straits Times associate editor Vikram Khanna, was part of the Indonesia-Singapore Business Forum held at Hilton Singapore Orchard hotel.

Organised by the Indonesian Embassy here and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the event saw more than 300 attendees participate in discussions on topics such as healthcare, digital transformation and sustainability.

Mr Gang Ye, group chief operating officer of consumer Internet firm Sea Group, said the spread of the coronavirus had a big impact on e-commerce and encouraged small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to leverage technology to reach consumers who are further away.

E-commerce firm's chief executive Kusumo Martanto noted that consumers tapped e-commerce platforms to get their daily essentials from both SMEs and big companies when people had to stay at home to prevent Covid-19 from spreading.

"During the pandemic, how people get the sanitiser, the masks, the medicines - that's where we play a big role."

The panellists also touched on the importance of firms taking up new technological solutions, which some did during the lull in demand as a result of the pandemic.

Mr George Hendrata, CEO of travel platform, noted how some travel attractions such as theme parks received help to embrace digital solutions.

His platform worked to make its app simpler for merchants to adopt, so that they could learn how to use it better and reach consumers more effectively.

But Mr Hendrata added that more training of workers is needed to further realise the potential of digitalisation.

Mr Fock Wai Hoong, technology and consumer deputy head for Temasek, likewise stressed the importance of training and upskilling.

Mr Fock, who is also Temasek's deputy head of South-east Asia, shared the findings of a recent survey that Temasek did with Google. The survey found that talent continues to be a major barrier to technological growth.

"This is really a challenge for all of us… it's really a focus on reskilling and upskilling our labour population as we (get) ready to participate in the Internet economy."

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